London, United Kingdom, Aug 3 – Russia made an “important step” Thursday by publicly apologising for the doping scandal that has seen the country barred from international track and field competition.
Dmitry Shlyakhtin, head of the Russian athletics federation (RusAF), made the apology in an address to the IAAF Congress meeting ahead of the world championships which get under way on Friday.
“The situation with athletics is very difficult indeed,” Shlyakhtin said, outlining that the federation had been totally overhauled since he took charge in early 2016 and that “radical changes” have been introduced.
“The initial period was not sufficient to understand the scale of the crisis happening in Russia.
“I’ve delved into this situation and understand that the decision by the IAAF and Council (to ban Russia) was the right one.
“I would like to apologise to all athletes who have had gold and silver medals snatched from them at competitions.”
Shlyakhtin added: “I can assure you that our new team will fight doping and what happened will never happen again.”
IAAF president Sebastian Coe called the apology “a very candid response”.
“The whole Congress was pleased to recognise that the Russian federation recognised themselves that they have been through some pretty torrid times, that they are doing everything they possibly can to make sure that the federation started doing the hard yards of changing the culture around coaching systems and endemic systems that have served, very badly, the athletes,” Coe said.
“Clearly, progress is being made… It’s been a very constructive day,” said Coe. “We’ve taken a tough decision and we need to see it through.”
Rune Andersen, independent chairman of the IAAF Taskforce looking into doping in Russia, hailed the apology.
“It is fair to say that the path has not always been completely smooth. There have been some bumps along the way, usually in the form of political statements or interventions that have not been entirely helpful,” said Andersen.
“I want to pay tribute to Dmitry Shlyakhtin and the colleagues he brought with him when he was elected as RusAF president in early 2016. Dmitry clearly understands the need to change the doping culture that clearly existed in Russian athletics in the past.
“He understands the harm that culture has cost clean athletes everywhere as the apology he just extended to those cheated out of medals demonstrates.
“It is a measure of the man and an important step on the road to rehabilitation of Russian athletics that he’s willing to acknowledge that offence publicly.”
– November return possible –
Russia was accused in a World Anti-Doping Agency report last year of widespread state-sponsored doping. Its athletics team was barred from last summer’s Rio Olympics and will also miss the IAAF World Championships.
A number of Russian athletes, however, have been granted permission by the IAAF to compete as neutrals after meeting the exceptional eligibility criteria, essentially demonstrating that they’ve come through transparent anti-doping testing.
Coe has confirmed that 19 Russian athletes were in London to compete at the worlds.
But the country remains excluded as a whole after the Council of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted unanimously to maintain the ban on RusAF.
The Congress of federation members backed the Council Thursday by voting 166 to 21 to uphold the ban.
Andersen insisted that the timeline of a Russian return to international action in November was possible.
“Their fate is in their own hands,” Andersen said. “They could complete the steps without much further delay.”